Yesterday, a Twitter friend sent me some rather shocking news.
— Holly Witteman (@hwitteman) March 17, 2013
National Post (Canada): Federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled’ under new code of conduct that stresses ‘duty of loyalty’ to the government: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/03/15/library-and-archives-canada/
According to the article, the new code of ethics is from the Canadian government agency known as Bibliothèque et Archives Canada | Library and Archives Canada.
Bibliothèque et Archives Canada | Library and Archives Canada: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/
Naturally, the first thing I did was to try to actually find a copy of the worrisome document. I tried browsing, and I tried searching within the site. I went to Google and did a search within the domain. Nothing worked. I found Codes of Conduct for other professions, archived from various publications, possible documents from several decades ago, but nothing BAC/LAC had authored recently.
A broader search brought up other articles expressing concern.
InfoDocket: Canada: “Federal Librarians Fear Being ‘Muzzled’ by Code of Conduct” http://www.infodocket.com/2013/03/17/canada-federal-librarians-fear-being-muzzled-by-code-of-conduct/
Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter: New Lack of Freedom for Archivists and Librarians in Canada: http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2013/03/new-lack-of-freedom-for-archivists-and-librarians-in-canada.html
Canadian Library Association: CLA Govt Library & IM Professionals Network: Library and Archives Canada Code of Conduct: http://clagov.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/lac-canada-code-of-conduct/
Canada’s federal librarians fear being ‘muzzled’. By Margaret Munro. http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Canada+federal+librarians+fear+being+muzzled/8105500/story.html
Several of these included embedded copies of the document from Scribd, where it was posted by Margaret Munro, a science journalist.
LAC Code of Conduct Values and Ethics. http://www.scribd.com/doc/130187655/LAC-Code-of-Conduct-Values-and-Ethics
The document made it clear that it was shared only on the staff intranet. Personally, I find that worrisome for any governmental agency. The document also discourages engagement with social media, EVEN WHEN CLOSED ACCESS. The document fails to describe appropriate ways in which to engage positively with social media, instead focusing on censures. Here are the relevant paragraphs.
3.2.2 Duty of loyalty. With the current proliferation of social media, public servants need to pay particular attention to their participation in these forums. For example, in a blog with access limited to certain friends, personal opinions about a new departmental or Government of Canada program intended to be expressed to a limited audience can, through no fault of the public servant, become public and the author identified. The public servant could be subject to disciplinary measures, as the simple act of limiting access to the blog does not negate a public servant’s duty of loyalty to the elected government. Only authorized spokespersons can issue statements or make comments about LAC’s position on a given subject. If you are asked for LAC’s position, you must refer the inquiries, through your manager, to the authorized LAC spokesperson.
3.4.1 Access and use of electronic networks. LAC employees must bear in mind that social media are public forums and that posts on these media are at risk of being made widely available. Public confidence can easily be damaged by remarks that embarrass, criticize or otherwise comment on the actions of the Government, LAC, co-workers or other members of the public service. This is true whether such remarks are made from the LAC network or from an employee’s personal account. Employees should refer to Treasury Board’s Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0.
Right there, with that, they’ve made it legally impossible for government librarians in Canada to participate in Twitter chats, as I do several times a week. They’ve made it impossible to answer reference questions received through social media unless taken offline and with the permission of your boss. But it gets scarier.
LAC Employee: An individual employed at LAC, including managers and executives, indeterminate and term employees, individuals on leave without pay, students participating in student employment programs, as well as casual, seasonal and part-time workers. Although they are not public servants, individuals on incoming Interchange Canada assignments as well as volunteers and contractors are all expected to comply with the requirements of the LAC Code of Conduct.
OK, so, this makes it sound as if I’d be held liable by this policy if I was “hired” as a guest speaker or contractor to advise other medical librarians in Canada and the hiring was done through the government. And I’d probably recommend to our grad students that they not take internships in Canadian government libraries.
Don’t think you could just quit your job, and then speak freely. The muzzle applies for a year after employment ends for some positions, and longer for others.
I won’t say we haven’t had similar concerns for US Librarians, but most of them were not as broad in scope or all encompassing as this is. And the units of USA government who have created social media guidelines seem to have done a better job than this. But all of that is a topic for another post. For today, read this document carefully and pray you don’t ever have to follow anything like this; watch conversations in your own enterprises and governments, and try to keep this from happening wherever you are.